Fire chief Jason Everett poses for a photo at the Two Mile Hill fire hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 2. This week is Fire Prevention Week. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Preventing fires while cooking up treats

Fire Prevention Week underway

Anyone looking for a good rice cereal treat recipe need look no further than the Whitehorse Fire Department.

The department has posted a YouTube video featuring firefighter Yogi Ponsioen whipping up the treats as part of the department’s efforts for Fire Prevention Week.

The week is marked every year during the week of Oct. 9 by local fire departments and the National Fire Protection Association, as a way of recognizing the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and educating the public on “simple but important actions they can take to keep themselves and those around them safe,” the Whitehorse Fire Department said in a statement.

This year’s theme of “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen” saw the Whitehorse Fire Department opt to deliver that message in the kitchen while also mixing up a tasty treat.

“We just want to raise awareness of cooking fires because the top cause of house fires in North America is cooking fires,” Ponsioen highlighted in the video as he waited for butter to melt for the bars.

Later as he stirred in marshmallows, he issued a reminder that when cooking or baking, it’s important to keep in mind which cooking elements are hot, and that hot food can also cause burns.

Other tips were offered throughout the video as vanilla, rice cereal and butterscotch chips were added to the mix.

As fire chief Jason Everett said in an Oct. 3 interview, having Ponsioen, the department’s “chef extraordinaire,” take to the kitchen in a cooking video seemed like a natural way to get the message and some safety tips out.

While the department can not offer tours or make in-person presentations as it normally would during Fire Prevention Week due to COVID-19, Everett said social media will be used throughout the week to deliver that safety message and offer tips to help people stay safe in the kitchen.

“It’s something that’s pertinent to all age groups,” he said of kitchen safely, stressing the importance of people being comfortable and safe in the kitchen.

Everett said the department has responded to 12 structural fires so far this year, but details on how many of those were cooking related aren’t available.

In its efforts to promote safety in the kitchen, Everett said the Whitehorse Fire Department is sharing tips with the public to help them stay safe.

Among them, he advised that residents should never leave cooking food unattended. That means staying in the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling and if the person cooking needs to leave, even for a short time, the stove should be turned off.

It’s also important to check any food that is simmering, baking or roasting in the oven regularly, using a timer as a reminder and to remain in the home while the food is in the oven.

He also stressed the importance of remaining alert while cooking and keeping an oven mitt and pan lid nearby.

In cases where there is a small grease fire, residents are advised to slide the lid over the pan to smother the fire, turn off the burner and leave the pan covered until it is completely cool.

The department is also suggesting there be a “kid-free zone” of at least one-metre around the stove and areas where hot food or drinks are being prepared or carried.

Even when food is not being prepared in the oven or on the stove, there’s safety to be kept in mind, Everett said, noting that the stove top should not be used as a counter top where papers and items might normally be left. That, he said, can created a fire hazard should the stove or oven be turned on.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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